Most Australians are familiar with the policies of child removal that resulted in the Stolen Generations, and the devastation they caused. Their impact continues today: 43% of children in out-of-home care are Indigenous.

What’s less broadly known – though Indigenous communities have spoken about it for decades – is the devastating impact of another, related set of coercive practices that sought to control First Nations mothers through birth control and sterilisation.

Ever since colonisation, Aboriginal women have had to insist on their right to have and raise their own children.

Now, historians are finding, in the government’s own records, evidence of family planning projects designed to control Aboriginal population growth – as recently as the 1960s and ‘70s. In their extraordinary Friday essay, Laura Rademaker, Ngarigu woman Jakelin Troy and Dharawal and Darug woman Julia Hurst share their findings.

For generations of women from settler backgrounds, birth control has offered the freedom and choice to control their own fertility. But as Rademaker and her colleagues write, it has also been used as an authoritarian tool to shape the population through the so-called “right kind” of babies.

A hopeful side emerges from this troubling history, too, in the growth of community-controlled health care – providing a way for Aboriginal women to reassert control over their health decisions, including their fertility.

Jo Case

Deputy Books + Ideas Editor

Friday essay: ‘too many Aboriginal babies’ – Australia’s secret history of Aboriginal population control in the 1960s

Laura Rademaker, Australian National University; Jakelin Troy, University of Sydney; Julia Hurst, The University of Melbourne

Indigenous people have long spoken about coercive practices of officials and experts around birth control, as late as the 1960s. Now historians are finding evidence in the government’s own records.

Israel accused of using AI to target thousands in Gaza, as killer algorithms outpace international law

Natasha Karner, RMIT University

The age of AI warfare has arrived – and it’s not looking good.

Grattan on Friday: Albanese government can’t be accused of excessive caution any longer

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Albanese has released two stances on vastly different issues, one of which is a shift in industry policy and the other in the government response to the conflict in Gaza the past week, as he sets himself up for the budget.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Josh Burns on being a Jewish MP during a terrible conflict

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor MP Josh Burns joins us to discuss the government moving towards recognition of a Palestinian state to help facilitate a two-state solution and the wider Middle East crisis.

Half a million more Australians on welfare? Not unless you double-count

Peter Whiteford, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

The Institute of Public Affairs says 425,000 more Australians are on welfare than in 2018, but it has double-counted some Australians and left out others.

Once enemies, Japan and US strengthen their alliance – and it goes beyond AUKUS

Craig Mark, Temple University

During a state visit to the White House, the US and Japanese leaders announce a suite of new agreements aimed at countering China’s growing power.

It’s common to ‘stream’ maths classes. But grouping students by ability can lead to ‘massive disadvantage’

Elena Prieto-Rodriguez, University of Newcastle

Research on streaming maths classes shows we need to think much more carefully about this very common practice.

Choice and control: are whitegoods disability supports? Here’s what proposed NDIS reforms say

Helen Dickinson, UNSW Sydney

Washer-dryers and Thermomixers might not seem like disability supports at first glance. But excluding them from NDIS funding could limit the independence of people with disability.

Despite what you might hear, weather prediction is getting better, not worse

Andrew King, The University of Melbourne; Kimberley Reid, Monash University; Michael Barnes, Monash University; Nick Earl-Jones, University of Tasmania

Weather forecasting is improving at a great rate, even though climate change could be making it tougher.

Foy & Gibson’s 8,100,000 miles of yarn: how Australians were sold ‘fashionable’ (and ‘healthy’) wool 100 years ago

Lorinda Cramer, Deakin University

I’ve been leafing through Foy & Gibson catalogues from the first four decades of the 20th century to try to understand what attracted Australian customers to wearing wool.

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

  • Surgery won’t fix my chronic back pain, so what will?

    Christine Lin, University of Sydney; Christopher Maher, University of Sydney; Fiona Blyth, University of Sydney; James Mcauley, UNSW Sydney; Mark Hancock, Macquarie University

    The most common complaint among people with chronic pain is low back pain. Here’s what treatments do – and don’t – work.

  • From RSV to meningococcal B, we must ensure equitable access to childhood immunisations

    Archana Koirala, University of Sydney; Brendan McMullan, UNSW Sydney; Christopher Blyth, The University of Western Australia; Emma Best, University of Auckland, Waipapa Taumata Rau; Fiona Russell, The University of Melbourne

    At the moment, a child’s access to certain shots can differ depending on whether they live in Queensland or Tasmania.

Environment + Energy

Arts + Culture


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